Erika López Prater, an adjunct professor teaching a course last year on world art at Hamline University, unsurprisingly wanted to show her class a 14th-century depiction of Muhammad. She explained in advance she would be showing the painting, and that any student who might be offended could simply skip the class. She repeated that offer just before starting the class during which the painting would be shown. However, one Muslim student remained that day — it's unclear if there were other Muslims who did not attend the class — for he was apparently was just itching to be offended, so that he could then complain about Professor López Prater, which he did. The end result was that the professor, for doing her job, was dismissed; her contract was not renewed. Robert Spencer wrote about this here, and more on this matter, her lawsuit against the university, and the grounds on which she may still sue the university on one claim, can be found here: "Minnesota professor dismissed for showing Muhammad painting gets go-ahead to sue," Associated Press, September 19, 2023:
"A former Hamline University adjunct art professor can proceed with her lawsuit against the private Minnesota school but only on the basis of religious discrimination, a federal judge has ruled.
Erika López Prater sued Hamline University earlier this year after she was dismissed following a complaint from a Muslim student that she showed ancient images of the Prophet Muhammad in a global art course last year.
US District Judge Katherine Menendez on Friday dismissed several other claims in López Prater's lawsuit, including those claiming reprisal, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and retaliation, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported. López Prater's attorney has argued that the school would have treated her differently if she were Muslim...."
Wasn't the reprisal — firing her — out of all proportion to her offense, if indeed there was any offense at all? Wasn't the President of Hamline, describing her as "Islamophobic," guilty of defamation? Didn't the President's brusque dismissal of Prater, who was not given a chance to explain exactly what had happened, amount to the intentional infliction of emotional distress? I am appalled at Judge Menendez's decision to dismiss all those claims made by Professor López Prater, but at least she agreed to hear her on the claim of religious discrimination.
"The fallout was far-reaching, leading the school's faculty to overwhelmingly call for university President Fayneese Miller to resign. Miller announced in April that she will retire next year."
In overwhelmingly calling for President Miller to resign, the faculty had no doubt that she had badly mistreated Professor López Prater.
"That announcement [of her resignation] came three months after she conceded that she mishandled the situation, particularly in calling López Prater's showing of the image "Islamophobic.""
If Miller conceded that she had "mishandled" the situation, , why didn't she simply right that wrong by re-hiring Erika López Prater? Or was she more afraid of how the Muslim students would react than in correcting an injustice?
"An attorney for the university, Mark Berhow, said he and the school's legal team are encouraged by the judge's decision to dismiss most claims and "look forward to demonstrating that the sole remaining claim is also without merit.""
López Prater's argument that she was the victim of religious discrimination — which Judge Menendez described as "novel" — is a solid one. For had she been a Muslim and chose to show the painting of Muhammad to her class, wouldn't that Muslim student's complaint have been treated differently? No one then could accuse her of "Islamophobia," as Erika López Prater. a non-Muslim, was accused. She could have said something along the lines of "I am just as good a Muslim as that complaining Student X, and I won't be intimidated by someone whose view of Islam is so extreme, just as those girls in Iran taking off their hijabs have not allowed themselves to be intimidated by the religious police." Does anyone doubt that she would still be teaching at Hamline? Of course there was religious discrimination against Erika López Prater — as a non-Muslim, she was treated by the university's president not as a conscientious teacher, but as a bigot. And imagine if a Christian student had been offended by a teacher showing in class a caricature of Jesus, or had students watch in a course on on Religion and the Media, "The Life of Brian" and complained. Would anything have happened to that teacher? You know the answer to that.